tell me a story and make it funny
March 26, 2006 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend standup commedians to someone who dislikes gags but loves storytelling.

Because life is short, I generally tell people that I hate standup comedy. And I’ve half convinced myself this is true. But then I remember the joy I felt, as a teenager, listening to Bill Cosby and Woody Allen tell funny stories. Alas, as I got older, most standup I heard was a collection of jokes or gags. For whatever reason, I don’t respond to shows like this -- even if the jokes are really, really funny. In such cases, I laugh at first, but as the jokes go on and on, I get bored. My brain yearns for narrative.

I’m interested in any recommendations for storytelling comedians. Bonus points for performances that I can actually see: they’ve been recorded or the performer is in my area (NYC).

Go ahead and suggest anything, put I prefer personal stories (“When I was a kid...”) to non-personal ones (“This Republican senator was on vacation...”), and I’m not a big fan of the scatological stuff. I’d rather laugh at failed relationships than fart jokes.
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
He doesn't tell stories per se - or well, yes I guess he does, but they get pretty scattered - but if you haven't see Eddie Izzard yet, check him out. Dress To Kill is a perfect introduction. He's smart, and silly, and his "bits" go on for ages, weaving in and out of subjects and veering off into mime and hilarious little playlets.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:53 AM on March 26, 2006

Henry Rollins. The former lead singer from Black Flag and Rollins Band now focuses on spoken word/storytelling. He tells personal stories about life on the road, various interactions with fans, acting, dating among others.
posted by carabiner at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2006

Certainly not a standup comedian, but IMO one of the funniest storytellers on the planet: David Sedaris.
posted by scody at 11:14 AM on March 26, 2006

Daniel Kitson. He does brilliant story-telling style stand up which has won him awards and stuff, and he also does 'story shows', which I haven't seen, but sound exactly like what your looking for and are probably ace.

He's based in the uk, though, and I can't seem to find any of his actual recorded comedy online - his website is under consruction - so no bonus points for me.
posted by Little Bravado at 11:22 AM on March 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, scody. I like Sedaris, too. If people want to post about funny "storytellers" as opposed to "comedians," that's fine -- it's a blurry line. I like Jonathan Ames and the late, great Spaulding Gray, too.
posted by grumblebee at 11:23 AM on March 26, 2006

When I think of story-telling, I think of Jean Shepherd.

For someone alive, you could try Greg Behrendt, whose jokes are more long themes than gags or stories.
posted by plinth at 11:25 AM on March 26, 2006

Check out Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia and Gray's Anatomy.
posted by driveler at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2006

Richard Pryor. Some of the stories he tells pass right out of the realm of comedy and soar into literature, but they are bust-a-gut, gasp-for-breath, piss-yourself funny.

There's a box set out called "And It's Deep Too..." that is worth every penny, but to really appreciate Pryor you need to *see* as well as hear him; a DVD of one of the concert films, like "Live on the Sunset Strip," would be good too.

(If you don't want to pop for the box set, Rhino Records' "Anthology" is a good, affordable introduction.)
posted by enrevanche at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2006

(By the way, I did see that you said you're "not into the scatological stuff," and Pryor can be both obscene and/or profane, but it is the farthest thing from "fart jokes" that can be imagined.)
posted by enrevanche at 11:42 AM on March 26, 2006

As I said in the related thread, New York based comedian Tom Shillue is FANTASTIC at this. He has a podcast, too- subscribe and downlaod the two podcasts titled "Shine on My Shoes"- it's the story of his first trip to NYC. I listen to it regularly and laugh every time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Gotta second Jean Shepard!

I wonder if you need to have been alive when he was active to enjoy him...?
posted by dpcoffin at 12:12 PM on March 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions, so far. Re: scatological stuff. I actually CAN get into it sometime. It just has to be really clever. I don't find just the mention of farting in someone's face funny. But I might laugh heartily at a story of social embarrassment caused by an accidental fart in public. In other words, I'm not a prude -- I just don't have a 14-year-old boy sense of humor.
posted by grumblebee at 12:44 PM on March 26, 2006

Stuart McLean CBC radio host who most weeks tells a story of the fumbling adventures of a fictional used record store owner and his family. Perhaps in the tradition of Garrison Keillor. I can recall times where the stories were laugh out loud funny - and laugh out loud is rare for me - in that identifying with someone's embarrasment way. McLean, in his writing and his journalism, has always had an affecting understanding of the humanity of small everyday moments.
posted by TimTypeZed at 12:47 PM on March 26, 2006

Dane Cook has a great deal of some-racy, some-not-so stories from everything to Kool-Aid to Monopoly to that friend in every group that no one likes. And some great sample stories on his site.
posted by disillusioned at 12:54 PM on March 26, 2006

Garrison Keeler is a riveting story teller.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:31 PM on March 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm on my PocketPC, so I can't easily look this up, but do a search for "What Goes Up Must Come Down" -- It's a very funny insight into commercial flying.
posted by krisjohn at 2:42 PM on March 26, 2006

Patton Oswalt does some hilarious storytelling centered around his experiences growing up and observations as a comedian.

IMO, his role on King of Queens in no way displays his stand-up / storytelling talent.
posted by Benway at 2:43 PM on March 26, 2006

Even though his material is (mostly) fictional, Neal Pollack is regularly the funniest man I've ever read.
posted by GilloD at 2:59 PM on March 26, 2006

Essayists that veer into storyteller land - Sarah Vowell and David Rakoff. Eddie Izzard and David Sedaris were already mentioned. For rambling/angry/funny comedian, I like Lewis Black, too.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:23 PM on March 26, 2006

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Bill Hicks, though I think of him as more of a philosopher than comedian. Very political, very honest, he was simply wonderful.
posted by dbiedny at 3:24 PM on March 26, 2006

Sort of out of left field, but check out a Kevin Smith Q and A session or his An Evening With Kevin Smith dvd.

I started thinking about him as a stand-up comedian after watching the DVD. He's got a great, amiable presence on stage and answers questions with personal narratives about his adventures in Hollywood business that seem crafted to the point of being routines. You may have to have a little bit of geek in you to appreciate it over the long haul, but I think he's very accessible and extremely engaging. If you're looking for story-based comedy, he's an interesting dark horse.

You'd probably dig the whole Comedians of Comedy thing; Patton Oswalt was mentioned above and is the head of that show, and Brian Posehn is particularly narrative-based.

I also think certain Lewis Black recordings have personal narrative as their core structure... (Black on Broadway didn't strike me that way, but I don't remember the structure extraordinairly well).
posted by pokermonk at 3:27 PM on March 26, 2006

Definately Jim Norton. He's a brilliant stand up who has the permanent third chair on the Opie and Anthony show on XM Radio. The stories he tells of his life and experiences are not only funny, but honest and they also get you on the edge of your seat with suspense about what the outcome will be by delving into the twists and turns and emotions of the experience.

He is also has LIGHTNING fast wit and mastery of the language.
posted by sandra_s at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2006

Bill Hicks:stuff
the Scottish interview is timely
posted by hortense at 5:46 PM on March 26, 2006

How has nobody mentioned the Big Yin yet?
posted by flabdablet at 7:14 PM on March 26, 2006

I second Daniel Kitson... seen him twice live and he's hilarious. I'd also recommend Ross Noble.. another UK comedian (but whose now based in Australia).

AFAIK, UK and Australian comedians tend to be much less into gags than their US counterparts.
posted by bruceyeah at 8:36 PM on March 26, 2006

If you're willing to consider classic comedians, you might want to check out recordings by Bob Newhart and Shelly Berman. Each of them might be best described as a one-person sketch troupe, and much of their work is narrative.

You might also check out recordings by Nichols & May; again, they're more like a sketch troupe than like typical stand up comedians.
posted by yankeefog at 5:45 AM on March 27, 2006

I'll second the Big Yin. If you're at all interested in Rugby and can understand the Welsh accent, try a bit of Max Boyce.

I'd caution on Daniel Kitson, some of his stuff is brilliant but he also has a tendancy to, to put it politly be a bit up his own arse. Make sure it's a proper Kitson stand up not one of his "Story" shows.
posted by lloyder at 7:04 AM on March 27, 2006

Stand-up comedian, Brian Regan is worth a look. Kind of a "traditional" comedian, but with a good, rambling style. And he is one of the "cleanest" comics out there.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:35 AM on March 27, 2006

I don't think anyone has mentioned David Cross yet. He has a couple of albums out, and live bootlegs are easy to come by. I don't think he is very (unnecessarily) scatalogical.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2006

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